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Bills release former first-round pick Williams

BUFFALO, N.Y. (Feb. 23, 2006) -- Offensive lineman Mike Williams was released by the Bills, ending an disappointing four-year tenure in Buffalo for the former No. 4 draft pick.

The move allows the Bills to save salary-cap space for next season. Williams had two years left on his contract.

"Salary-cap issues certainly fit into that," general manager Marv Levy told Buffalo's WIVB-TV, while attending the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. "There's some difficult decisions that have to be made and we would like to address them early if we can. ... It's never fun to release a player."

Williams' agent, David Dunn, declined comment.

Williams' release did not come as a surprise because of his hefty salary and his history of sporadic performances. Last year was his worst. He lost his starting job at right tackle to undrafted free agent Jason Peters midway through the season.

Attempts to convert Williams into a left guard failed when he hurt his back, an injury that forced him to miss the final five games of the season.

In four seasons, Williams started 47 games.

His future was in question in Buffalo even before team president Tom Donahoe was fired in January and coach Mike Mularkey resigned a week later.

Levy, who replaced Donahoe, also questioned Williams' ability and work ethic as recently as last week.

A former star at Texas, Williams was the first offensive lineman selected in the 2002 NFL Draft.

The solid run blocker struggled in pass situations, a knock that prevented the team from using him at left tackle -- a more demanding position.

Williams' off-field problems led to further questions.

He was fined by the team after being unexcused for a training camp session in 2004. Williams, who also missed numerous optional minicamps earlier that spring, cited undisclosed personal reasons for missing practice.

On his way to a home game against Houston in 2003, Williams flipped his truck and hurt his shoulder, forcing him to miss the game.

Williams' release comes a day after the Bills designated cornerback Nate Clements their franchise player, retaining his rights by offering him a one-year tender.

The Bills also must determine whether to retain veteran receiver Eric Moulds, who is entering the final year of his contract. Levy has expressed interest in attempting to restructure Moulds' contract.

Moulds' adviser, Greg Johnson, said this week that Moulds, who completed his 10th season with the Bills, would like to stay in Buffalo -- but only if a fair deal can be achieved.

"I think Eric would like to stay. He's big on loyalty," Johnson said. "But it's got to make good sense for both parties. It's got to be truly, truly a win-win situation."

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2006, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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